Oshi Shinobu

Contents

A study of the Nelson Seido dojo

Nelson is not a big city, but it is home to a gift that supports, ameliorates and strengthens even those who do not know of its existence. The Nelson Seido karate dojo lies modestly in the industrial zones of the city, near Vanguard Street, drawing to it people from the entire region, country and world. It has been contributing to our community since 1974 and shows no signs of stopping or even slowing down. The people who are lucky enough to step into this hub of diversity and traditional martial arts enjoy the invaluable effects Seido karate has on the mind, body and spirit, enhancements that reach out from the dojo into the lives of all who surround it.

Seido dojo 1988The Dojo in 1988, from Dojo Scrapbook 1987-1990
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The dojo has faced challenges. The instigator, supporter and teacher of the school is Hanshi Andy Barber, a man who has become one of three high masters of Seido karate in the world. After moving to Nelson in the mid-seventies Hanshi purchased an old factory, which was to become a world renowned dojo.1 The dojo owes its existence and incredible atmosphere to Hanshi’s teachings, character and strength, factors that have fuelled its progression since its inception. The dojo began as a filthy run down manufacturer of oil central heating units,2 covered in grease and stone. It was the students of the practice who sanded, varnished, re-sanded, laid and oiled the floor, chipped off the concrete walls to reveal the now iconic brickwork, and chiselled away the concrete cross that remained above the door from the building’s time as a church.  The 1921 building had originally been an ice cream factory, which was converted into a church in 1951, before becoming a manufacturing unit. It opened as the renovated Nelson karate dojo of Kyokushinkai style martial arts in 1974.3

Seido dojo brickworkBrickwork of the Dojo. Image supplied by author
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Seido dojo 1988 with Hanshi Andy BarberThe dojo in 1988 with Hanshi, then Shihan, Andy Barber. Dojo Scrapbook 1987-1990
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To provide financial support for the dojo and the martial arts school, when it first opened in the 1970's, it led a double life, operating simultaneously as the Bushido spa sauna. A small room at the back of the dojo housed an inlaid pool, which had once been used by the church for baptisms. A sauna was constructed above it, and the far wall of the dojo was built as a heavy, but adjustable barrier, which allowed for the room to be used as either changing rooms for the sauna or as a space for karate classes.4 The reception area doubled as a massage clinic and, when sauna sessions ran simultaneously as classes, half naked spa goers walked freely through the dojo to and from the sauna. Karate changing rooms were assembled and disassembled before and after each class and the few women practicioners dressed in the sole toilet. Despite all this effort, expenses were far from covered. Hanshi worked in an extensive array of jobs including as a fisherman,5 bulldozer driver, scrub cutter, hairdresser’s assistant, car washer and salesman of barbeque charcoal. Students took it upon themselves to contribute as well, working as security guards at local music concerts and demonstrating karate at fundraisers.6 Interest in karate grew because of Hollywood martial arts films of the period, but the dojo still only ran a meagre three to four classes per week and remained small.7

Tadashi Nakamura was a martial arts master of 30 years before becoming the father of the Seido style of karate, which he launched in 1976,  partly to counter the abundance of flimsy western martial art styles inspired by the film industry.8 Seido focussed on traditional Japanese values and syllabus,  introducing the Seido moral code, or Budo. ‘Bu’ meaning to stop violence and set things back into harmony. ‘Do’ meaning the way of life. It teaches that the greatest fight each of us must end is the one within ourselves”.9 The new practice focused on the idea of every student doing their own personal best “but with that goes the realisation that one persons’ 100% is not always equivalent to another,”10 which was completely contradictory to the ‘punch first ask questions later’ attitudes of movie martial artists. However, the lifestyle of the dojo during its early days was hard; physical injury was common, the dropout rate of students was as high as 90%, rock hard punching bags and no ventilation or heating made classes challenging.11 Students were usually young men training for physical strength.

Seido Shinzen 1983Shinzen (heart of the dojo) in 1983. Dojo scrapbook 1983-1987
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Nonetheless, the dojo continued to grow. Hanshi gave up his jobs to become a full time karate instructor, devoting all his time and energy to Seido.12 More women joined, following pioneers such as Anna Karolyi, the first woman in the dojo to grade to black belt13 and Jane Barber, now at the Jun Shihan rank of black belt. The ACCESS courses also brought in a wider range of people. The dojo became part of this program in the eighties, accepting twelve students at a time to train two hours a day five days per week and teaching them social, health and money skills.14 The course was damned by Winston Peters, then spokesperson of the National party, declaring that the course seemed useless unless the participators aspired to become bouncers. The $26,520 scheme was defended by Phil Goff, the employment minister at the time, agreeing with Hanshi’s statement that “the karate training is the fundamental discipline… Developing physical skills goes along with developing strong moral character.”15 The course participants responded angrily to the accusation that the program was producing nothing but bouncers. They declared that Mr Peters “obviously doesn’t know what he’s talking about”16 as they became more motivated and healthy following the course. A letter to the Nelson Evening Mail on the 8th June 1988 by F. R. Dobbs insists the course assumes the way to employment is through a “short sharp karate chop to the neck followed by a swift flying kick to the kidneys,”17 implying the ineffectiveness of karate if not to abuse violence. Again the participants were outraged at the allegation that they would abuse their karate. Hanshi stated “the original teaching was challenging and facing your opponent, now that opponent is unemployment.”18 The courses were hugely successful, taking in thieves, alcoholics or drug addicts, plus the mentally or physically disabled, who had spent years in institutes to no avail. With their progress they proved wrong the statements that they would never achieve employment or become part of the community.19  One member of the course said “If I really feel like a hit, I come to training, it seems to deal with it. Until I started karate there was nothing to fill the gap, I needed something to fill the gap.”20 Ex-prisoners who resisted against “standover tactics when people look down on you”21 found that the dojo was a place of equality, respect, patience and courtesy. Success rates were phenomenal.

Seido Shinzen 2002Shinzen in 2002. Folder on 2002 Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura's visit
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Seido Shinzen 2013Shinzen in 2013. Image supplied by author
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The Uchi Deshi Rehabilitation House was created by Hanshi in 1989 after the ACCESS courses revealed the number of drug and alcohol damaged youths in Nelson.22 Hanshi saw ACCESS students who were making progress returning to a home with high drug exposure, only to relapse despite all that was achieved within the dojo. He formed this ‘live-in dojo’ to give the students a non-judgemental, accepting but challenging atmosphere designed to give them awareness of their own strengths and to place them in an environment full of healthy happy people. The Uchi Deshi House ran a strict physical, mental and spiritual cleansing regime that began each morning at six thirty for a day with ninety minutes of meditation, three hours of work practice, dojo maintenance and six hours of karate.13 Each cycle ran for six months and up to six students participated at a time. Steve Dauby, an ex-member of Uchi Deshi describes the lifestyle as “just really pure”, rich in a way that was not achievable from drugs or alcohol.14  He says that “it wouldn’t have worked if Hanshi wasn’t here, no way. Hanshi’s the whole thing really.” He emphasised just how essential Hanshi was to Uchi Deshi and that the effort, time and understanding that Hanshi gave fuelled a healing, healthy atmosphere which the students thrived in.  After twelve years the house closed, but Mr Dauby states that Uchi Deshi saved his life and that he retains parts of the house customs which still help him and the people he loves.

Seido Dojo 2013The dojo, 2013. Image supplied by author
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Seido 2013Nelson dojo 2013. Image supplied by author
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The dojo affects the Nelson community in many ways, socially, financially and spiritually. It has been hosting charity events, fundraising for the less fortunate since its beginning. Donations have been given for drug rehabilitation, women’s benefits, those suffering from alcohol problems, underprivileged children and the homeless,25 for example $8000 was collected at the 1993 annual charity tournament26 and the 2009 tournament raised $15,500 for the Fifeshire Foundation.27 Hanshi also sponsors many local refugee children to train in the dojo and says this is one of the parts of the dojo he is most proud of.28 Everyone who enters the dojo is welcomed no matter how much money they have, what they do for a living or where they come from. It is a place to raise self-esteem and self-confidence, let go of the troubles from everyday life and train without judgement of others or yourself.

The dojo is an incredible hub of people from all spheres of life and remains a stable and strong base to return to. It has grown from holding less than five classes a week to 35,29  has 226 black belts and 456 students aged four to over 70.30  This bountiful environment has affected the lives of  many and continues to be a powerfully significant presence in the Nelson community.

Clare de Joux, Nelson College for Girls, 2013

Sources used in this story

  1. Seido 20th Anniversary Booklet (1994), p.5 
  2. Seido 20th Anniversary Booklet, p.5
  3. Seido 20th Anniversary Booklet, p.5
  4. Seido 20th Anniversary Booklet, p.6
  5. Interview with Hanshi Andy Barber, May 2013
  6. Seido 20th Anniversary Booklet, p.6
  7. Interview with Hanshi Andy Barber
  8. Interview with Hanshi Andy Barber
  9. Introduction to Seido Karate Do, from Dojo Scrapbook 1983-1987
  10. Introduction to Seido Karate Do
  11. Seido 20th Anniversary Booklet, p.6
  12. Interview with Hanshi Andy Barber
  13. The Day She Took On 100 Opponents, from Dojo Scrapbook 1983-1987
  14. Clifton, J. (1988, June 8) Goff Defends $26,000 Karate Course, The Dominion
  15. Clifton
  16. Karate Kids: ‘We’re Not Bouncers, from Dojo Scrapbook 1987-1990
  17. Dobbs, F.R. (1988, June 15)  Access Course: Letter to the editor. The Evening Mail
  18. Karate Kids
  19. Cropp, A. (1989, August 6) Karate Gives Hope to Ruined Lives. The Dominion Sunday Times
  20. Cropp
  21. Cropp
  22. Celebrating Shihan Andy Barber’s 20th Year in Nelson (1994, October 19) Nelson Evening Mail
  23. Interview with Steve Dauby, 31st May 2013; Martial Art Rehab offers new start, Dojo scrapbook 1991-1993.
  24. Interview with Steve Dauby
  25. Karate Experts Fight for Charity, Dojo Scrapbook 1987-1990
  26. Striking an icy blow for charity (1993, September 13) Nelson Evening Mail
  27. Karate Experts Gather for Charity, Dojo Scrapbook, 2007-2009
  28. Interview with Hanshi Andy Barber
  29. Seido Nelson website: www.seido.co.nz
  30. Seido Nelson website; inquiries at the dojo

Want to find out more about the Oshi Shinobu ? View Further Sources here.

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Further sources - Oshi Shinobu

Books

  • Nakamura, T. (1989) The human face of Karate. Tokyo, Japan : Shufunotomo Co
    http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/27075795
  • Nakamura, T. (1992) One day, one lifetime : an illustrated guide to the spirit, practice, and philosophy of seido karate meditation. New York : World Seido Karate Organization
    http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/26632875
  • Seido 20th Anniversary Booklet (1994) [A celebrative booklet that compiles the history of the dojo as well as photographs, comments, dates, personal experiences and an explanation of Seido respect and rank proceedings.] Held Seido Karate Nelson. 1994.   

Other

  • Dojo Scrapbook 1983-1987: held Seido Karate Nelson

    Introduction to Seido Karate Do – the welcoming letter to Nelson Dojo students upon changing to Seido style, author not given.
    The Day She Took On 100 Opponents – Newspaper article, newspaper unknown, author unknown, specific dates unknown but from a Saturday between 1983-87.
    End of 1984 newsletter – Student newsletter, author unknown, specific dates unknown but end of 1984.
    Cause and Effec t– Notes from a conference, author unknown, dates unknown but between 1983-87.
    Karate– Letter to the editor, newspaper unknown, Mary Thornton, Specific dates unknown but July 3rd of 1983-87.     

  • Dojo Scrapbook 1987-1990: held Seido Karate Nelson
    Seido Karate – Welcoming message from Seido Karate Benefit tournament ‘Fight for the Homeless’, Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura, Sunday 1st May 1988.

    Getting a Kick out of Access – Newspaper article, newspaper unknown, author unknown, dates unknown.
    Goff Defends $26,000 Karate Course – newspaper article, The Dominion, Jane Clifton, 8th June 1988
    Access Course – Letter to the editor, The Evening Mail, F.R. Dobbs, June 15th 1988.
    Access Course – Letter to the editor, possibly The Evening Mail, Dianne Rose, June 10th 1988.
    Karate Course – Letter to the editor, possibly The Evening Mail, Faith Price, June 15th 1988.
    Karate Kids: ‘We’re Not Bouncers – newspaper article, newspaper unknown, Amanda Cropp, dates unknown.
    Access Karate – letter to the editor, newspaper unknown, John R. Yanko, July 22nd 1988.
    Karate Experts Fight for Charity’– newspaper article, newspaper unknown, author unknown, dates unknown but 1988 before September 10th.
    Karate Helps Fight Abuse – newspaper article, newspaper unknown, author unknown, dates unknown but 1988 just after September 11th.
    Karate Gives Hope to Ruined Lives – newspaper article, The Dominion Sunday Times, Amanda Cropp, August 6th 1989.
    Karate Brings a New Kick into the Lives of Many Wome  - newspaper article, Nelson Evening Mail, Saturday August 11th 1990.

  • Dojo Scrapbook 1994-1996
    Karate Man’s Triumph Over Injury  - newspaper article, newspaper unknown, Kate Batten, dates unknown but between 1994-96.

    Blind Student Tackles Karate – newspaper article, newspaper unknown, author unknown, Thursday June 13th 1996
    Cleanup for Square –newspaper article, newspaper unknown, author unknown, dates unknown but between 1994-96.
    Uchi Deshi – newsletter article, Robert Smith, dates unknown but between 1994-96.
    Duel Focus for Karate Tournament – newspaper article, The Leader, author unknown, October 20th 1994.
    Attackers Know Who’s Boss – newspaper article, newspaper unknown, Scott Wilson, photographer Colin Smith, Wednesday October 19th 1994.
    Celebrating Shihan Andy Barber’s 20th Year in Nelson – newspaper article, Nelson Evening Mail, author unknown, Wednesday October 19th 1994.

  • Dojo Scrapbook 1996-1999
    300 Students Welcome Home Master – newspaper article, The Leader, Phil Barns, Thursday November 6th 1997.
    Rise of Karate Reflects Changes in South Africa – newspaper article, newspaper unknown, Wayne Martin, photographer Martin De Ruyter, dates unknown.   Acquired 9th May

  • Dojo Scrapbook 2007-2009
    Karate Group Seeks Public Support to Help Others – newspaper article, The Nelson Mail, Josh Reich, photographer Martin De Ruyter, dates unknown.
    Karate Experts Gather for Charity – newspaper article, The Nelson Mail, Alice Cowdrey, photographer Patrick Hamilton’, dates unknown.   Acquired 9th May

  • Folder on 2002 Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura’s visit. Photos documenting Kaicho’s visit to Nelson dojo and pictures of the dojo at the time.
    Held Seido Karate Nelson

  • Interview with Hanshi Andy Barber, Tuesday 21st May 2013

  • Interview with Steve Dauby [former Uchi Deshi rehabilitation house participator and current Seido student] Friday 31st May 2013

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